Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? It is more important for students to study history and literature than it is for them to study science and mathematics. Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.
At school, we study a wide range of subjects from science and mathematics to history and literature. If I had to prioritize them, I would say, from the viewpoint of what education is all about, that history and literature are more important than science and mathematics. Education must help each of us live happily first and foremost, whatever "happiness" may be, and we can safely say that living happily involves knowing ourselves, (having the capability of) understanding others and then committing ourselves to relationships. History and literature are taught at school precisely because studying them enhances our awareness of ourselves and others alike, leading to better mutual understanding.
History tells us a lot about ourselves. Here, I define history as a series of interactions of people in the past, rather than as a sequence of events leading up to the present day, precisely because it is not what happened but who caused any event to happen with whom for what motives that really matters to us. Posing and analyzing those kinds of questions leads us to a far better understanding of human nature; one that can be universally applied. For example, by studying the world affairs of the 1930s and 40s in this manner, we can learn about our propensity to easily relinquish our freedom when we are in fear, to need a strong leader to make decisions for us. As long as we bear in mind the disastrous outcomes that followed, we can at least be careful and on the alert.
In contrast to history, which provides us with external facts that help us know ourselves better, literature comes from within us, typically dealing a blow to the reader and challenging her to doubt her cherished world view. Does that enable us to know ourselves better? Yes, it does, because a great author sheds light on part of our inner existence that would otherwise never be exposed. Students, encouraged to read literary works and to discover what is part of them, will learn that an individual always has more than can be seen, which is the basis of self-respect and respect for others.
History and literature both provide us with a myriad of reference points with which we can better understand not only ourselves but also others. Thrown into the interactions of others appearing in history or literary works, students are bound to start using their imaginations. Hopefully, they come to understand that the "past" about which they learn or an imaginary world in which a good story is set should be experienced as the "possible present" by the "possible selves." Reality as we perceive it makes sense only when we exert our imagination in this fashion.
A Prussian politician, Bismarck, once said, "Fools say they learn from experience; I prefer to learn from the experience of others." He must have known well that an individual's experience as an object from which only she learns is so limited in amount and so closed to the world that it could be of little universal value, whereas the experience of others, be they alive or dead, fictitious or real, can be a greater open source of things that stretch our imagination. Studying history and literature is, therefore, an attempt to know others, exerting imagination.
As I have demonstrated thus far, we can know ourselves and others better by studying history and literature. Now a person who knows herself better and who is more aware of the "otherness" of others, which she naturally respects, wishes to establish relationships with other people because now she knows that her real self only lies in relationships with others. She knows that looking at herself in a mirror doesn't mean learning about herself. As I have implied, learning about ourselves and about others through studying history and literature means relating to ourselves and others. Why does she not want to raise her head from the book and start to seek new relationships with people in the real world?
A socialist I admire once said that every joy (and sorrow) in life lies in human relationships. Good relationships should be based on a sound grasp of ourselves and others. Studying history and literature is more beneficial to students than studying science and mathematics because it helps them to know themselves and to understand other people, leading them to establish relationships, which mean everything to our lives.